Sanchez takes the reins as Smyrna QB

SMYRNA — Before conference play started, Aidan Sanchez received a visit from Smyrna High offensive coordinator Mike Marks.

Sanchez, a sophomore quarterback, had just two games under his belt at the varsity level at that point.

But with Henlopen Conference Northern Division games on the schedule, it was time for Sanchez to take his game to the next level.

“Coach Marks came up to me and said, ‘I need you to get it now. I understand you’re only a sophomore but I need this now.’” Sanchez said. “He did throw me into the fire, yeah, but I feel like I’m handling it.”

Sanchez has won the last two games and has the Eagles unbeaten in Henlopen North play. They face one of their biggest tests of the season tonight when they travel to Sussex Central High for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Both teams are 2-0 in the Henlopen North. Smyrna is 2-2 overall while Sussex Central is 4-1. The Eagles have won the last four meetings between the two teams.

Sanchez is in his first year as Smyrna’s starting quarterback and has some big shoes to fill.

Smyrna’s last two quarterbacks have gone on to play in college. Nolan Henderson quarterbacked Smyrna to state titles in 2015 and 2016 before joining the University of Delaware football team. Then Isaiah Wilson was the No. 1 quarterback last year when the Eagles won their third consecutive state championship and ended up signing with Norfolk State.

Sanchez’s debut was a tall task.

He had to go up against Middletown High in the season opener — the same team Smyrna had faced in the last two state championship contests. Sanchez did throw a touchdown but Smyrna ended up with a 41-20 defeat.

Smyrna coach Mike Judy was pleased with what he saw out of Sanchez that night and the following weeks as he learned Smyrna’s spread offense.

“No matter how many games you got under your belt you’re going to fall on your face a little bit,” Judy said. “You almost have to let that happen. Then you can coach them through the moments. He’s been getting better and better. He’s a very coachable kid so when you identify something he needs to work on, he’ll fix it.”

Smyrna can always turn to its earthquake formation full-time, which features no quarterback, like they did at time in the last two state championship games, but Judy said that’s not an option early in the season because they want to develop Sanchez.

“Our program’s success is based on the fact that we can spread you sideline to sideline or play in a phone booth, the contract between the two is what makes us dangerous,” Judy said. “You can’t just run earthquake, you can’t just run spread. You have to use both. I feel like we’re getting to the point where we can take advantage of both.”

Smyrna has scored a combined 103 points in its first two conference games and Sanchez has tossed six touchdowns in that span.

While he did not play last season, he always was next to Marks on the sideline as the plays were being called in. He said it allowed him to pick up the offense where he thought he would be ready this year.

“It gave ,me the opportunity to see both the right read and the mistakes,” Sanchez said. “Whether it was watching from the sideline or in film. Everything made it so much easier for me to be thrown into this.”

Judy said that preparation is what set Sanchez apart in preseason camp.

“He’s a great athlete but the quarterback position is a mental position,” Judy said. “You’ve got to be able to dish the ball out like a point guard. He’s pretty ahead of the game to be able to run this offense the way he’s doing as a sophomore.”

Staff writer Tim Mastro can be reached at tmastro@newszap.com or 741-8224.
Follow @TimMastroDSN on Twitter.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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